Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Goldsmiths, University of London

The main focus of my research is attention and awareness and in particular how attention and eye movements are influenced by social factors. Related to this, I have a keen interest in the science of magic and use magic to investigate a wide range of cognitive mechanisms, such as attention, memory, illusions, and beliefs.

I am interested in visual perception, and the factors that determine our conscious perception of the world. In particular, what are the mechanisms that drive our attentional system to select certain events at the expense of others? I use a wide range techniques, from laboratory based reaction time tasks to eye tracking measures, both in the lab and the real world. I am particularly interested in how attention is guided by social cues, as indicated by another persons’ gaze direction. How does our use of gaze cues in the “real world” differ from the lab? Do children and individuals with autism utilize gaze cues differently?

Over the centuries, magicians have developed extensive knowledge about how to manipulate our conscious experience, knowledge that has been largely ignored by science. Outside of my academic life I am a keen magician, as a result I have developed a special interest in how the magicians’ expertise can be used to further knowledge of cognition. I believe that steps should be taken towards utilizing this knowledge to further our understanding of human cognition and consciousness. For example, the magician’s techniques in misdirecting people’s attention may provide unique insights into attention and awareness. Many magical illusions can inform us about the nature of our visual system, and our disbelief resulting from experiencing a magic trick can tell us about human reasoning and beliefs.

Experience

  • –present
    Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Goldsmiths, University of London